Godavari Delta Women Lace Artisans Cooperative (India)

In the Godavari Delta, Tamil Nadu, India, a low-lying coastal area in eastern India where the vast Godavari River meets the Bay of Bengal, the people struggle to overcome a variety of natural disasters – cyclones, heavy rains, gales, tidal waves and flooding. The Godavari Delta Women Lace Artisans Co-operative is a women’s producer group. Their specialty is lace-making and they are adapting their traditional craft to more modern designs to support the women and children who rely on this cooperative to earn a living.

Before the cooperative was formed, the lace makers were at the mercy of unscrupulous middlemen who exported the lace, keeping most of the profits for themselves. The 300 women who are members of the cooperative are very poor, most are illiterate, and they struggle to survive in a male-dominated culture which encourages arranged marriages, dowry abuse, and discourages women from getting an education. Sales of lace items offer hope and a new sense of empowerment for these women.

With the help of Bishopton Trading, women at Godavari have recently been able to buy a computer so they can contact sellers via email instead of having to rely on fax or post. Their next project is to raise funds from their fair trade premium to build a shelter for them to work together. Godavari is democratically run and the women benefit from advance payment and long-term relationships with buyers.